The Continuance of Slavery

Before I deployed for Saudi Arabia to work a project there, I watched a variety of YouTube videos about Saudi Arabia. I hit on a slew of videos about the treatment of foreign laborers, especially housemaids. These women from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, and elsewhere have a long, sad history of poor and sometimes violent treatment by their employers in Saudi. One video was a professional documentary about three or four Filipinas who essentially were held as slaves. Their passports were confiscated by their employers who also withheld payments. Whenever these women complained about nonpayment, they were handed over to other Saudi women who became their new employers. After three years working for no salary in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Philippine government finally repatriated these ladies and an entire plane-load of women like them. The documentary film captured their reaction as the plane touched-down in Manila. All of the passengers erupted into applause and cheers -- and tears -- as the sense of relief of being home and out of the hellhole flowed through them.


I was wondering why nearly every passenger on the Saudi Air flight I was taking to Addis Ababa was a young, Ethiopian woman. There were almost no men on board. I was caught off-guard when, upon touching down in Addis, these young women broke out into laughter, cheers, tears, prayers of thanks, and that strange sound African women make when they utter high-pitched tones with their tongues oscillating in their mouths. When we were taxiing to the terminal, one young lady turned round to me and asked me in good English who I was and where I was going. I told her the little I was willing to offer, but asked her if she had worked in Saudi. She replied yes, she had been there for a year working as a housemaid and servant. I inquired about her treatment. She clammed-up a bit, but replied “troubling.” And then she wanted to give me her phone number. Another foreigner intending to come to the US.


Slavery is alive and well in the world, especially in Saudi Arabia. The worst of the slaveholders are Saudi women who are so repressed emotionally and physically that they lash-out against whoever they feel empowered to enslave and mistreat for their own sick purposes. JFK forced Saudi to outlaw slavery in 1962. While it doesn’t exist anymore as an institution, it exists every day behind tall walls of the Saudi homes.